Howard Willens Redux

In August of this year, I emailed Howard Willens, one of the writers of the Warren Report and author of “History Will Prove Us Right,” to clarify some details regarding an upcoming blog post I was preparing. Although I had not asked him anything on this go around about Victoria Adams, he volunteered the following in his reply:

“Of the many witnesses who were interviewed or testified, there was one woman who said that if Oswald had descended from the sixth floor after the shooting, she would have seen him. I gather from your previous work that you believe she was credible and that the Commission should have given more weight to her testimony.  No one questions the integrity of that witness and many others whose testimony was not relied on in the Report. The Commission concluded that all the contrary evidence outweighed the recollections of this particular witness.  Her testimony was carefully considered by the lawyers preparing the draft section of the report and all those who reviewed that draft, including the Commission members, before the report was finished and published.”

It is unfortunate, but Willens’ response is an example of how facts in this case are being sold short and his particular brand of “history” is simply being fudged. Here’s why:

“…there was one woman who said that if Oswald had descended from the sixth floor after the shooting, she would have seen him.”

False. The unnamed “woman,” aka Vicki Adams, never once said anything remotely similar to what Willens has written here. In reality, it was the Warren Report that implied as much, saying, “If her estimate of time is correct, she reached the bottom of the stairs before Truly and Baker started up, and she must have run down the stairs ahead of Oswald and would probably have seen or heard him [my emphasis]. At no point in her testimony does Vicki say she would have seen Oswald had he at that time been escaping down the stairs.

“The Commission concluded that all the contrary evidence outweighed the recollections of this particular witness.” 

All the contrary evidence? You mean like the publicly suppressed Martha Joe Stroud document that corroborated Vicki’s immediate descent—a document the Commission had in hand three months before concluding she came down much later? Like Dorothy Garner (not questioned by the Commission) who verified both what Vicki did and what was written in that document? Like the weak and at-odds testimonies of Shelley and Lovelady relied on by the Commission? Like Sandra Styles (also neglected by the Commission) who accompanied Vicki and verified that Shelley and Lovelady, two she knew well, weren’t where the Commission presumed them to be? Like David Belin who, upon introducing himself to Vicki, said he didn’t believe a word she was saying? Like Vicki being the only one excluded from the time tests of Oswald’s escape, even though she begged Belin to be included?

“Her testimony was carefully considered by the lawyers preparing the draft section of the report and all those who reviewed that draft, including the Commission members…”

I find it absolutely impossible to believe that men of that caliber could “carefully consider” her testimony while overlooking such “contrary evidence” that, on the contrary, proved she was right and gave every indication of not outweighing “the recollections of this particular witness.” What the Commission did to minimize Vicki Adams was wrong.

And they knew it.

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3 for 3

The FBI’s version still being shown on postcards for sale in Dallas, circa 1968.

IMG_20200603_0001IMG_20200603_0002

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Mr. Willens

In a 1964 internal memo, Warren Report co-author Howard P. Willens wrote, “In a discussion, the Commission could rely on some witnesses and reject the testimony of others, such as Victoria Adams.”

His comment was in reference to the Report’s chapter that dealt with Oswald’s escape from the sixth floor. What always intrigued me was the inclusion of her name and her name alone.

Was it because the Commission had conducted a thorough look-see into Vicki’s claims and found them to be without merit? But that couldn’t be because, despite its promise to do so in her specific case, the Commission had done no such thing. In fact, it had avoided just such an examination.

So what then was the basis for her rejection?

We might discover a clue from Willens’ 1978 testimony before the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) where he discussed his role on the Warren Commission. During that appearance he said, “We thought it was important to have a fair and comprehensive treatment of the evidence. We also thought it would be desirable to support the Commission’s conclusions in as useful and as persuasive a way as possible.”

(The reader should note that those conclusions regarding Oswald’s guilt were spelled out in January 1964, a month before the Commission would call its first witness to the stand.)

Willens’ explanation prompted a related HSCA question: “Do I understand you correctly to be saying that where information or evidence might have been subjected to sharp challenge in an adversary proceeding there was an inclination of the Commission staff not to rely on it but to rely instead on evidence that could not have been as sharply criticized or challenged?”

“That certainly was a general effort,” Willens admitted. “I don’t know how well it was achieved in the overall Report but I do know that it was of particular concern with respect to the evidence implicating Lee Harvey Oswald.”

Was that it? Were Vicki’s words considered a “sharp challenge”? Would she have presented a problem in an adversary proceeding where the facts were honestly being sought? Although her testimony was not officially rejected, as Willens first recommended, its substance certainly met that fate.

In 2013, Willens continued with the same mindset. He failed to mention Vicki or her important trip down the stairs in his commemorative 50th-anniversary book,untitled “History Will Prove Us Right: Inside the Warren Commission Report on the Assassination of John F. Kennedy.” He would though cite the more “useful” and “persuasive” bits and pieces.

After reading his book for a third time, I obtained the author’s email address through his publisher. I wanted to see if he’d provide some clarification on several issues.

“If you have a serious question about who did it,” he responded, “further correspondence is probably a waste of your time and mine. If that is not the case, then by all means send me your questions.”

And so I did.

Why was Victoria Adams singled out in that 1964 memo? If when she came down the stairs was so vital, as David Belin and others on the Commission staff implied as early as February 1964, why wasn’t she included in the timed re-enactments of Oswald’s escape? In that same regard, why weren’t the three women who stood next to Vicki at the window questioned, particularly Sandra Styles who accompanied Vicki down the stairs? Why did the Commission elevate the times of when Vicki said she left her office and when she said she arrived on the first floor?

“I do not see any important issue involved here,” Willens generalized in reply. “There is no doubt that Oswald descended on the stairs. There is no doubt that [Vicki] did likewise. If they were on the stairs at the same time, she might have, or might not have, heard his steps. Her testimony was not rejected because she did not see or hear him.

Willens

Howard Willens

“In fact,” Willens went on, “the Report relies on the testimony of other witnesses, as well as hers, to try and reconstruct the events in the Depository in the minutes after the assassination. The Report states that she saw Shelley and Lovelady ‘when she reached the first floor.’ This is consistent with the testimony of Shelley and Lovelady to the effect that they ‘entered the building by the rear door several minutes after Baker and Truly rushed through the front entrance.’ Upon entering they saw a young lady who they believed was Miss Adams. All three witnesses agree on seeing each other on the first floor.”

Let’s closely examine that last paragraph:

“The Report states that she saw Shelley and Lovelady ‘when she reached the first floor.'”

The Report does indeed cite a portion of Vicki’s testimony in which she is quoted as saying she saw those men on the first floor.

“This is consistent with the testimony of Shelley and Lovelady to the effect that they ‘entered the building by the rear door several minutes after Baker and Truly rushed through the front entrance.'”

Both men did in fact testify to remaining outside the Depository for several minutes before returning to the first floor.

“Upon entering they saw a young lady who they believed was Miss Adams.”

Here is where Willens is blatantly wrong. His use of the word “they,” in two instances no less, implies both Shelley and Lovelady saw a young lady who each man thought was Vicki Adams. That is not true, however. Both men did not say they saw a young lady, and both men did not say that young lady was believed to be Miss Adams.

This is what William Shelley said:

 

Q: When you came into the shipping room did you see anybody?
A: I saw Eddie Piper.
Q: Who else did you see?
A: That’s all we saw immediately.
Q: Did you ever see Vickie [sic] Adams?
A: I saw her that day but I don’t remember where I saw her…I thought it was on the fourth floor a while after that.

 

Cross off Shelley, who does not recall seeing Vicki on the first floor but rather on the floor where she actually worked, later that day. What about Billy Lovelady?

 

Q: Who did you see in the first floor?
A: I saw a girl but I wouldn’t swear to it it’s Vickie [sic].

 

A most curious statement for Lovelady to make since, in all of his testimony up to that point, “Vickie” or “Vicki” or any other derivation or reference to that name had not been mentioned. Continuing:

 

Q: Who is Vickie?
A: The girl that works for Scott Foresman.
Q: What is her full name?
A: I wouldn’t know.
Q: Vickie Adams?
A: I believe so.
Q: Would you say it was Vickie you saw?
A: I couldn’t swear.
Q: Where was the girl?
A: I don’t remember what place she was but I remember seeing a girl and she was talking to Bill or something….

 

But “Bill” said he saw only employee Eddie Piper and no one else. He didn’t mention speaking with anyone or being spoken to, let alone it being Vicki Adams. And did Lovelady’s comments really justify the Warren Report’s assertion that, “On entering, Lovelady saw a girl on the first floor who he believes was Victoria Adams”?

“All three witnesses agree on seeing each other on the first floor.”

Obviously, this is not true either. And like the Warren Report before him, Willens ignored Sandra Styles, a fourth member of this first floor meet-and-greet, and clearly an important one. Her corroborative value is significant, as is the fact she knew both Shelley and Lovelady yet is adamant in saying they were not on the first floor when the girls arrived there.

Investigators David Belin and Howard Willens

David Belin (left) with Willens on first floor of TSBD, March 1964

In my follow-up email I brought all this to Willens’ attention, and reiterated everything regular followers of this blog have read concerning Vicki. I mentioned Vicki’s strong denial to ever having said she saw Shelley and Lovelady on the first floor, and the evidence that is consistent with that denial. I also sent him a copy of the Martha Joe Stroud letter, explaining its sinister implications and reminding him that, for some reason, it had been suppressed from public view for 35 years.

“I don’t mean to be argumentative,” I wrote, “but bearing all this in mind, what are your thoughts?”

I suppose I pigeonholed myself into that “sharp challenge” category.

Months later, I’m still awaiting a reply.

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The Opperman Report

The latest attempt to introduce Victoria Adams to those unfamiliar with her story. It was broadcast last night, October 11, and will be repeated on many AM/FM iHeartRadio outlets during the week of October 14. Give a listen … please.

3c7b1861f27001e339f2b1a875bed0bc    https://www.spreaker.com/user/oppermanreport/girl-on-the-stairs-the-the-search-for-a-

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Further Corroboration

As previously mentioned, it’s always fascinating to hear from the people who once knew Victoria Adams. To a one, they corroborate her character. Here’s a recent example:
Mr. Ernest,  
Miss Adams was my 6th grade teacher at IHM Catholic School in 1961-1962! She was the best teacher I ever had at all levels. She taught all subjects well, but it was her enthusiastic, positive attitude that amazed me!
She was different from all other teachers because she let us know it was important to be yourself! Miss Adams had guest speakers from the community. Once a detective spoke to the class about the importance of paying attention to detail. When he left, she said “take out a piece of paper and write down everything you noticed about our speaker”!! The winner got a prize for how much he had noticed about our guest, his clothes, his mannerisms, even how long he spoke.
We had a class Christmas party, off school grounds, which she arranged. She asked me to be Santa, dress up and have each student sit on my lap and tell me what they wanted for Christmas! She made me feel like a leader! I was not an artist, but had a sense of humor! She helped me win a craft contest on the Bible and manners. Her hint about the Garden of Eden and Ladies First (the 1st apple bite) was the reason I won! Several times a year, I would think of Miss Adams and how she truly changed my life!
      I decided to find her and thank her for all she meant to me! I found your book on the internet! I ordered your book and can’t wait to read it! “Miss Adams” changed my life! Thank you for defending this incredible lady! She always told the truth and was a stickler for details!
Thank you,
David

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Sisters

One of the highlights of writing a book distributed world-wide is the opportunity of dealing with the many readers from all walks of life who contact me in one way or the other.

Especially stirring is the correspondence from people who once knew the heroine of my book, Vicki Adams, on a more personal level: friends, high-school classmates, teachers, foster parents, coworkers. To the letter, they all confirm the type of character Vicki was: cautious yet generous, careful with words, intelligent, and above all else, a stickler for principles and truths.

Then came the day her sister wrote me.

Here was a relationship like no other: a blood relative who had shared an apartment with young Vicki in Dallas; a woman who Vicki trusted and had confided in shortly after the assassination; a woman who was in the same room that weekend when FBI agents first questioned Vicki.

In her email, Judi recalled a few key moments from that November.

A excited Vicki had called Judi at her work. Vicki wanted to relate an extraordinary experience: she had just witnessed the assassination of a U.S. president from the fourth-floor window of her office. She would go on to say she had noted three shots which she felt seemed to come from below and to the right side of her building. Vicki also said that immediately after the shooting, she and a coworker ran to the back stairs and had gone down them in order to get outside.

This is no doubt the earliest record of what Victoria Adams had seen, heard, and done that afternoon. Judi said Vicki repeated that narrative, identical in its details, during subsequent telephone conversations with her later that day.

Two days afterwards, on November 24, Judi said she was in the same room with Vicki while FBI agents Edmond Hardin and Paul Scott sat in their apartment and asked her sister questions. At the time, Vicki, Judi, and one other girl were sharing expenses at 3651 Fontana Street in Dallas.

“I do remember her telling them exactly what she had told me over the telephone that afternoon and evening [of November 22],” Judi wrote. “Pretty much that she ran down the stairs either directly before Oswald or after him. What they seemed to be looking for was an eyewitness.”

In other words, had she seen Oswald escaping from above?

Judi’s memories of what Vicki told her in those early phone calls — impromptu as they were and made at such a nonpartisan hour — support word-for-word what Vicki said about when she used the stairway to the Dallas Police, again to the FBI, and then ultimately to the Warren Commission. But on November 24, while Vicki sat nervously in front of those two agents, the thorny problem surrounding exactly when she had made her descent hadn’t yet surfaced.

And because she had replied that she didn’t see anyone on those back stairs while she was on them, Vicki Adams was not the kind of eyewitness the FBI was seeking.

Little did they know.

 

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A Younger Vicki

Vicki

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October 5, 2018 · 2:54 pm

The Jacket

Many may think the title of this post refers to the jacket discovered by police as they searched for the murderer of Dallas Patrolman J. D. Tippit.

It does not.

Instead, it is in response to several readers who recently have asked me why the “jacket,” or cover, to the hardback edition of “The Girl on the Stairs” is as it is. Brief though it may be, here’s the story:

https://www.behance.net/gallery/19795027/BOOK-COVER-DESIGN-The-Girl-on-the-Stairs

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Turning The Tables

For quite a while I have been answering questions posed by readers of my book. Now I want to turn the tables and ask the readers a question. Let’s see what kind of discussions (if any) this query produces, shall we?

The question is:

What physical evidence puts Oswald in the so-named “sniper’s nest” at the time the shots were fired?

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A Garner By Any Other Name

Setting the record straight: to provide the facts about something that people have a false understanding or idea about.

On that note, let me try to “set the record straight.”

Darryl Wayne Garner and Dorothy Ann Garner are not brother and sister.

Let me repeat: although they have the same last name, Darryl Wayne Garner and Dorothy Ann Garner are NOT brother and sister.

For those unfamiliar, Darryl Wayne was the guy arrested for shooting Warren Reynolds, who saw the fleeing assailant of policeman J. D. Tippit and couldn’t ID him as Lee Oswald…until after he was shot in the head by Darryl Wayne.

Yea, it was definitely Oswald, Reynolds would then say, a reflection of the dramatic improvement to his recollection.

Darryl would end up being released from jail based on an alibi provided by Nancy Mooney. Mooney (get this) was once a stripper for Jack Ruby.

You cannot write script this good.

Darryl was dead at the age of 30. Mooney was arrested for a dispute with her roommate. She was found hung in her jail cell, her name thus added to a growing list of those who perished in one way or another because of their assumed connection to JFK’s murder.

Dorothy Ann on the other hand led a far less complicated life. She was a supervisor for the Scott Foresman Co., located on the fourth-floor of the TSBD. On November 22, 1963, she became one of four women who watched the assassination from that office window, years later providing the words that proved Victoria Adams had been telling the truth after all.

But that’s another story.

Dorothy Garner

Dorothy Ann Garner

Anyway, somebody wrote to me recently asking for my thoughts on the idea that Darryl Wayne Garner was one of several shooters firing at Kennedy that day. His position was on the aforementioned fourth floor of the TSBD while sister Dorothy Ann Garner acted as his spotter.

This idea comes from somewhat of a deathbed “diary” in which one of those listed as being behind JFK’s murder was none other than Joe DiMaggio. This scenario has it that Joltin’ Joe was upset at the Kennedy’s, particularly Jack, for how his former wife Marilyn Monroe was treated, and maybe even done away with. The careful reader might now have an inkling toward the credibility of the aforementioned Garner-Garner idea.

The Garner-Garner idea is not new, by the way. It’s been around the block a few years and I’m frankly surprised it still exists. But it’s wrong. And here’s why.

Darryl Wayne GARNER of Warren Reynolds’ fame was born January 1, 1940, in Delta County, Texas. His parents were Roy Lee and Dahlia Beatrice (Barlett) GARNER.

Dorothy Ann DAVIS of TSBD fame was born on August 30, 1928, in Grandfield, Oklahoma, to Joseph Porter and Bertha Leona (Dority) DAVIS. Her husband, who she married in 1956, was Billy Joe GARNER.

Right about here you should be saying…wait a minute. If both Darryl and Dorothy (and perhaps even a missing bro Darryl) are indeed brother and sister, shouldn’t they share the same parents and the same surname? And shouldn’t it be either Darryl Wayne DAVIS, or Dorothy Ann GARNER, in her case Garner from the get go and not a name change due to marriage?

Those are really good questions.

Dorothy Savage

Dorothy F. Garner

Evidence mounts when you look at the obituaries of both sets of parents. There is no listing for a Darryl Wayne as a sibling to Joesph and Bertha Davis. Conversely, there is no listing for a Dorothy Ann as a daughter to Roy and Dahlia Garner.

Yet here is where I think the confusion—either that or intentional misrepresentation—originates. Darryl Wayne Garner’s parents DID in fact have a daughter named Dorothy. Her name was Dorothy F. Garner. (Note the initial.) She was born in 1934 and later became an airplane electrician in Irving, Texas. But she was never employed at the TSBD.

In JFK assassination lore, Dorothy Ann Garner, the TSBD one, is often mistakenly identified and given the aka name of Dorothy Faye Garner. I once asked Dorothy Ann about the Faye middle name and was told emphatically she never, ever used it and didn’t recall anyone else using it. At most, she said, she was referred to as “Aunt D” or maybe “Dot,” and nothing more.

So, do you think this will set the record straight once and for all? Don’t bet on it. If history is prelude in this subject, the error will persist simply because it offers a far better entertainment value than the facts.

Agreed?

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